The International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage, and Climate Change (ICSM CHC) builds on growing calls for international attention to culture, heritage and climate change. It requests attention to the many connections between culture and the human past and how these intersect with the modern phenomena of climate change. It also highlights the need to address culture and heritage gaps in global climate science and climate change response and seeks to advance the contributions of culture and heritage to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
For the purposes of the ICSM CHC, heritage is understood to include tangible, intangible and natural heritage, which stand alongside the creative economy and its cultural and creative industries. Tangible cultural heritage includes archaeological sites, buildings, structures, and monuments, landscapes, museum collections and archives. Intangible cultural heritage includes the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills and ways of knowing – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Natural heritage, which encompasses geological and other natural features and in turn supports biodiversity, and human systems are closely linked and mutually reinforcing. Together, cultural sites, traditional knowledge, Indigenous ways of knowing, and value systems and spirituality, play important roles alongside scientific knowledge in sustaining, conserving, and managing the environment.
Climate change represents one of the greatest threats facing culture and heritage today. Increasing fires, floods, droughts, desertification and ocean acidification are threatening both cultural and natural heritage, while rising sea levels, particularly in the world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS) put entire ways of life at risk. Climate change threatens the diversity of cultural expressions and the cultural and creative industries, with a loss of economic opportunities challenging the livelihood of artists and cultural professionals.
Yet culture is also a resource for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Intangible cultural heritage practices, including traditional land and water management practices, traditional food security strategies, and the use of traditional architecture and building materials, can help communities mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. Cultural and natural heritage sites can serve as a refuge, both physical and psychological, for communities during and after climate-related emergencies. These sites can also act as assets for recovery and reconciliation in the wake of intercommunal conflicts linked to climate change. Creativity is essential for finding new solutions to environmental challenges, and cultural and heritage institutions and artists have an enormous role to play in inspiring climate action.